The 'Distant Approaches Defensive Operation', which is also known as the 'Battle of the 74-km Crossing' and the 'Battle of Abganerovo Station', was a Soviet defensive undertaking in the first stage of the 'Battle of Stalingrad' and resulted in decisive delays to the advance of Generaloberst Hermann Hoth’s 4th Panzerarmee (2/20 August 1942).
On 30 July, as part of the advance on Stalingrad, Hoth’s 4th Panzerarmee secured a foothold on the Manych river to the south of Stalingrad, and on the same day this key German formation was transferred from Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List’s more southerly Heeresgruppe 'A' to Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs’s more northerly Heeresgruppe 'B'. At this time the task of the 4th Panzerarmee was to deliver the main blow across the railway connecting Salsk and Stalingrad to the north-east and reach the Volga river in the area of Krasnoarmeysk. General Viktor von Schwedler’s IV Corps was to cover the Panzer army’s eastern flank, and General de divizie Corneliu Dragalina’s Romanian VI Corps was to cover the western flank between the railway and the Don river.
The 4th Panzerarmee's arrival in the Stalingrad area greatly complicated the Soviet situation, for it opened the possibility that the Germans could bypass General Leytenant Vasili N. Gordov’s Stalingrad Front on its southern flank, reach the Volga river and enter Stalingrad from the south, thereby working in concert with Generaloberst Friedrich Paulus’s 6th Army to encircle General Major Vladimir Ya. Kolpakchy’s 62nd Army and General Leytenant Mikhail S. Shumilov’s 64th Army in the area immediately to the west of Stalingrad. The Soviet situation was aggravated by the fact that there were practically no combat-ready formations on the 4th Panzerarmee's axis of advance, and on 16 July the head of the Armoured Directorate, General Leytenant Yakov N. Fedorenko, reported to the chief of the general staff, General Polkovnik Aleksandr M. Vasilevsky, that 'I consider the left flank of the 62nd Army and the right flank of the North Caucasus Front to be a particularly dangerous area and nothing has yet been secured.'
On 28 July the situation remained very acute: in the discussions between headquarters of the Stalingrad Front and the supreme command headquarters, the question of who occupied the south-western front of the Stalingrad outskirts from Krasny Don to Raigorod received the answer that the south-western edge of the Stalingrad area was occupied by no units. To plug this large gap on the outer edge of Stalingrad, Polkovnik Ganly B. Safiulin’s 68th Division and the 244th Division were allocated. The formations were divisions only in name, however, for they were in fact little more than brigades or even regiments in terms of their numbers: the former, for instance, had a mere 1,685 men.
On 1 August, fresh forces created in Siberia and the Far East were transferred to the Kotelnikovo area: these were Podpolkovnik K. M. Voskoboinikov’s 208th Division, the 6th Guards Tank Brigade, one artillery regiment and one engineer battalion. These were concentrated in the area of the Kumoyarovsky farm, and were to be followed by Polkovnik V. E. Sorokin’s 126th Division and the 422nd Division. The 208th Division was transported from the Far East in six echelons with the expectation that these would detrain at the Kotelnikovo station on the Privolzhsk railway, but by the time the first echelon arrived, this station had been taken by the advance detachment of Generalleutnant Max Fremerey’s 29th Division (mot.), and the train came under fire as it approached the station. The following echelons were destroyed by German warplanes, and as a result the division lost up to half of its personnel and a large number of weapons.
From 1 August, parts of the 4th Panzerarmee advanced from the right-bank Don river bridgehead at Tsimlyansky, but soon ran short of fuel and quickly lost momentum. Thus only that only Generalleutnant Ferdinand Heim’s 14th Panzerdivision, supported by the 29th Division (mot.), participated in the first-stage of the German offensive. Even so, this caught the leadership of General Major Trofim K. Kolomiets’s 51st Army by surprise, and German units penetrated in the area between the 91st Division and Polkovnik Dmitri S. Kuropatenko’s 157th Division, thereby cutting the 51st Army in two. On 2 August the Germans occupied Kotelnikovo, on the following day reached the bank of the Aksai river, and one day continued they advance on Stalingrad.
In this area, the Volga river steppe seems flat and monotonous, and is totally devoid of trees. The monotony is alleviated only by water courses, for every 18.5 to 25 miles (30 to 40 km) there is usually a small river at the bottom of a wide valley typified by its steep and generally armour-inaccessible banks. There is also a multitude of gullies and ditches created by erosion of the soil by river water, possessing banks of considerable height and often branching out to form a whole network of folds in the ground. They are a serious obstacle for the movement of vehicles of all types and force changes to higher ground of routes planned for tank and mechanised units. Thus this plain is tediously monotonous for its lack of trees, lack of shadows and shade, dustiness, hot sandstorms, heat of more than 122░ F (50░ C), mirages, steppe fires and, most importantly, lack of water.
For the forthcoming advance, the 4th Panzerarmee possessed General Rudolf Veiel’s XLVIII Panzerkorps (14th Panzerdivision and 29th Division (mot.)), General Viktor von Schwedler’s IV Corps (94th Division and 371st Division) and Dumitrescu’s Romanian VI Corps (Romanian 1st Division and Romanian 2nd Division).
These German and Romanian formations were opposed by the 255th Separate Chechen-Ingush Cavalry Regiment, the 29th Division, the 38th Division, the 126th Division, the 157th Division, the 208th Division, the 204th Division, the 154th Marine Brigade, one separate regiment of cadets of the Vinnitsa Infantry School, one separate regiment of cadets of the Zhytomyr Infantry School, Polkovnik Trofim I. Tanaschishin’s XIII Tank Corps (6th Guards Tank Brigade, 13th Tank Brigade and 254th Tank Brigade), the 133rd Heavy Tank Brigade, the 20th Fighter Brigade, the 43rd Guards Artillery Regiment, the 594th Artillery Regiment, the 85th Guards Artillery Regiment, the 1104th Cannon Artillery Regiment, the 665th Anti-Tank Artillery Regiment, the 738th Anti-Tank Artillery Regiment, and the Armoured Train No. 577 of the 28th Separate Armoured Train Division.
On 3 August, Major Movlid A. Visaitov’s 255th Separate Chechen-Ingush Cavalry Regiment was covering the Soviet withdrawal and entered combat with elements of the 4th Panzerarmee near the Kotelnikovo station. During the battle, four German tanks were destroyed and a number of men were killed. The cavalry regiment itself suffered heavy losses of men, wagons and horses. Under the pressure of superior German strength supported by ground-attack aircraft, on 8 August the cavalry regiment suffered losses so heavy, in the area of Chilekovo railway station, that it could no longer be considered an independent unit. The Soviet command therefore decided to create two reconnaissance cavalry units from the regiment’s remnants and integrate these into General Leytenant Timofei T. Shapkin’s IV Cavalry Corps. On 8 August, the 14th Panzerdivision broke through the outer part of Stalingrad’s defences in the area held by the 38th Division. The breakthrough did not cause undue difficulties as the 38th Division still held a front of some 12.5 to 15.5 miles (20 to 25 km).
On reaching the village of Abganerovo, the 14th Panzerdivision's vanguard encountered the 6th Guards Brigade and parts of the 126th Division. However, the German shortage of fuel did not allow the XLVIII Panzerkorps' main strength to keep pace with the armoured vanguard, and as a result the XLVIII Panzerkorps switched to the defensive.
On the night of 2/3 August, the 6th Guards Tank Brigade moved by rail to the area of Kotelnikovo and Dubovskoye, but was compelled to detrain at Tinguta station and complete its advance to Abganerovo station in its own vehicles.
On 4 August, faced with Soviet resistance in the area of Abganerovo station, the 14th Panzerdivision's vanguard began to concentrate and prepare for the capture of the station. The seizure of this latter was of singular importance as would pave the way for the rapid movement of men and supplies by rail between Kumoyarovskaya and Abganerovo.
In an effort to improve the control of Soviet tank units in the battle area, the 13th Military Battalion was ordered to move to the area of Tundutovo station, from which it was to control the XIII Tank Corps that was pushed forward. I was now without the tank brigades that had previously been subordinated to it, but which now had under command the 6th Guards Brigade, the 13th Tank Brigade and the 254th Tank Brigade. Tanaschinin, the corps commander, arrived on 4 August, and his headquarters staff reached the area two days later.
Polkovnik Fyedor E. Sadovsky’s 254th Tank Brigade was ordered to leave the defence sector in the Kalach area and, by 5 August, to concentrate his brigade in the Zeta area. The forced march in the battalion columns was poorly organised, and the brigade was attacked on several occasions by German warplanes.
At 03.00 on 5 August, the 13th Tank Brigade began moving toward Tinguta station, and by 12.00 its full force (on 1, 2 and 3 August the brigade had received 12 tanks for each of its units, so in total the brigade received 44 T-34 medium tanks to allow six companies of seven tanks each plus two command tanks) including one motorised infantry battalion, and had concentrated in its designated area. On the order of Gordov, the Stalingrad Front’s commander, on 5 August the 28th Separate Armoured Train Division (with the armoured trains No. 677 'Uzbekistan' and No. 708 'Komsomol of Uzbekistan') was urgently transferred from Kotluban station to the area of Sarepta and Tunguta stations, where it came under the command of the 64th Army. Together with the 13th Tank Brigade, the division was instructed to prevent any German breakthrough of the defences in the area of Tinguta station 46 (74 km) from Stalingrad.
The XLVIII Panzerkorps attempted to take Abganerovo station, but the Soviet troops had used the short pause in the fighting to prepare positions: both infantry and tanks were dug in, and this exercised a material influence on the day’s combat, in which the Soviet tanks claimed the destruction of 10 German tanks. The German were therefore unable to seize Abganerovo station straight off the march.
The 4th Panzerarmee ordered the corps to go over to the defensive and await the the approach of the main infantry and artillery elements. The 'Battle of the 74-km Junction' had thus begun with a Soviet success, which prevented the Germans from reaching the Volga river on the move and thereby cutting the Soviet forces into two parts.
The 655th Tank Battalion of the 254th Tank Brigade, comprising 11 T-34 tanks, was able to reach the Zeta area in the first half of the day and was immediately sent into action. The rest of the brigade was able to approach later. One of the adverse effects that reduced the 13th Military Battalion effectiveness was that the corps command was forced to assess the personnel of the subordinate units directly on the battlefield, without any preliminary analysis of the state of the units equipment, commanders and men.
At the same time, on 5 August, the headquarters of the Supreme Command created the South-East Front under the command of General Polkovnik Andrei I. Eremenko.
On 6 August the headquarters of the XIII Tank Corps arrived in the battle zone from the Donbass region after its original combat elements had been removed for reorganisation and replenishment. At this time the XIII Tank Corps lacked any anti-aircraft capability, but controlled three brigades (one guards infantry brigade and two tank brigades) with 132 tanks in the form of 114 T-34 medium and 18 T-60 light vehicles.
The IV Corps, after overcoming the Soviet rearguards at the village of Dubovskoye, was rapidly making up for lost time and advancing on Gniloaksaysk. Here, however, the Germans were met by the numerically superior Soviet forces and brought to a halt. At the same time, two of the XIII Tank Corps' divisions were still located to the north of the Don river. By 12.00 German units with as many as 70 tanks and 25 guns of the motorised infantry battalion, and enjoying the benefits of accurate close air support had occupied the sidings at the 74-km (46-mile) marker, but then the XLVIII Panzerkorps' mobile formations, to the north of the village of Abganerovo, were without infantry support and had exposed flanks, and thus found themselves in a difficult situation. With increasingly strong air support, the Soviet ground forces launched constant counterattacks.
The 13th Tank Brigade was ordered to attack the Germans and drive them back. The German strength was now considerable, and in the course of this day the Soviet brigade’s tank strength was reduced from 44 to 22. On the same day, however, the Germans also lost as many as 29 tanks and 12 pieces of artillery, as well as much of two infantry companies.
On the same day, the 254th Tank Brigade entered the fray after completing a 185-mile (300-km) march in which it lost 30 of its tanks, The brigade had 14 combat-ready T-34 tanks . The first attack on the 74-km (46-mile) siding involved eight Soviet tanks, of which one was destroyed by fire and another knocked out, and failed to dislodge the Germans. The results of the fighting on 6 August were summed up in an operational report sent at 08.00 on the following day: in the first half of 6 August, the German which had broken through were driven back, and the German attacks in the area of Farms Nos 2 and 3 were also repulsed. At 16.25, the German motorised infantry and 70 tanks broke through the division’s defences in the sector of Farms Nos 2 and 3, and captured the 74-km (46-mile) siding and the village of Tinguta. The farther German advance was stopped by units of the XIII Tank Corps.
On 7 August, the 126th Division fought stubborn defensive actions, in the process repelling repeated German attacks toward Abganerovo by forces of up to one infantry regiment with 40 to 50 tanks.
In co-operation with units of the 126th Division, the 38th Division fought stubborn battles with German tanks in the 74-km (46-mile) crossing area. The 13th Tank Brigade and the 38th Division held back the German advance toward Tinguta station to the north of the 74-km (46-mile) junction. The German movement to the south was diverted by the units of the 6th Guards Brigade. The 13th Tank Brigade attacked the Germans in the area of the 74-km (46-mile) junction, but could not any any positive result.
In the sector of the 157th Division, a force of two German infantry regiments crossed the Aksai river in the area of Novoaksaysky and Vodyanoy, and during the morning the Germans reached the area of the Peschanaya and Popov gullies before coming to a halt.
At this time the 204th Division was concentrated in the Zeta area, the 422nd Division was concentrated with two regiments in the Tundutovo area, and the 133rd Heavy Tank Brigade was located in the area of the Yurkin state farm.
The results of the fighting of 7 August were summarised in an operational report at 08.00 on the following day: part of the 64th Army continued to engage in stubborn battles with German armour that had broken through to the 74-km (46-mile) crossing area and repelled repeated attacks in the Abganerovo area. All attacks in this area were driven back.
On 8 August, parts of the 4th Panzerarmee attempted to progress from the 74-km (46-mile) junction to the south in the direction of Abganerovo station and to the north in the direction of Tinguta station.
On this day, the Soviet command planned an attack on the 74-km (46-mile) siding, but this undertaking did not materialise. The 204th Division was not able to move into its designated concentration area and Shumilov, the commander of the 64th Army, postponed the attack to the next day. By this time, moreover, the XIII Tank Corps' strength had declined still more: the 6th Guards Tank Brigade now had 10 T-34 tanks, the 13th Tank Brigade 11 T-34 tanks and the 254th Tank Brigade six T-34 and four T-60 tanks.
However, 8 August did not ease the strain on the Germans, for the Soviets maintained a steady barrage of artillery fire, and by 10.00 the 126th Division was fighting in Abganerovo.
At 05.00 on 9 August, a 30-minute artillery preparation paved the way for an attack by the 13th Army’s shock group, which comprised Polkovnik Aleksandr V. Skvortsov’s 204th Division and units of Voskoboinikov’s 208th Division, two cadet regiments with the 1104th Cannon Artillery Regiment, the 2/594th Artillery Regiment, 76th Guards Regiment of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade, and the 254th Tank Brigade. This shock group broke through the German position and retook the area of the 74-km (46-mile) junction. The XIII Tank Corps supported the Soviet infantry and artillery in destroying German tanks and savaging German infantry. An important factor in this success was the good inter-arm co-operation of tanks, infantry and artillery, which was something of a rarity for the Soviet forces in 1942. The result of this co-operation was the suppression of the German anti-tank defences which led, for example, to the loss of only one tank in the 6th Guards Tank Brigade. Conversely, only 24 tanks were left to the 14th Panzerdivision. Despite the success, the Soviets had expected more and advanced a company of four tanks of the 133rd Heavy Tank Brigade to the German rear, but the German retreat for which the Soviets had hoped did not happen, and on the next night the company returned to the brigade’s location. In an ambush, a tank company encountered 11 German tanks, which evaded the Soviet armour and bypassed the ambush.
The active actions of the 28th Separate Armoured Train Division did not go unnoticed by the Luftwaffe. During 9 August, a total of 105 German warplanes carried out 14 attacks on armoured trains, dropping at least 370 bombs. One armoured train received two direct hits, but the men of Armoured Train No. 677 shot down one Junkers Ju 87 dive-bomber and one Ju 88 medium bomber. In total, during the battles of 9 August, Armoured Train No. 677 lost seven men killed and 15 men injured by bombs, and itself received about 700 fragment holes. The armoured train was repaired within two days and returned to operations on the stretch of line between Chapurniki station and Tinguta station.
On this day, the 157th Division fought successful battles in the area of Height 78.9 and Popov’s gully. The division reported the capture of seven pieces of artillery, five heavy and nine light machine guns and about 350 rifles, as well as the killing of as many as 120 German soldiers. By 18.00 the left flank of the 126th Division had reached the north-western edge of Abganerovo station. The 38th Division fought stubbornly at the 74-km (46-mile) siding line at Koshary, some 1.84 miles (3 km) to the south-east of the 74-km (46-mile) junction, driving the Germans back by as much as 1.85 miles (3 km) from this area.
The Soviet report of the fighting on 9 August stated that the Germans had brought up fresh forces in the area to the south of Stalingrad, and that there was fierce fighting between the defending Soviets and the German and Romanian troops advancing from the south.
On 10 August, Generalleutnant Georg Pfeifer’s 94th Division had tank support as it took the heights to the west of Abganerovo station. The full strength of the 4th Panzerarmee now concentrated in the Abganerovo area, but precious time had been lost, and more Soviet formations and unit was now of their way to the area and quickly organised the defence.
Fighting in the 74-km (46-mile) junction area continued until the end of the day: during an attack in the area of Farm No. 2, for example, three KV-1 heavy tanks of the 133rd Heavy Tank Brigade broke through the German defences, suppressed a number of German firing points and entrenched themselves on the line, inflicting severe damage on the Germans. As a result of two days of stubborn battles in the 74-km (46-mile) junction area, the 204th, 38th Division and part of the 208th Division eliminated the German breakthrough and by 20.00 had reached the MTF line some 4.35 miles 7 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo, Height 115.3 some 6.2 miles (10 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo, and the state farm some 8.1 miles (13 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo.
The Soviet situation was thus restored, and the Soviets were able to return to their outer defensive positions. The 204th Division was leading the offensive and by 14.00 had reached the line to the north of Abganerovo, a point 3.7 miles (6 km) to the south-east of the 74-km (46-mile) junction and Farm No. 3 some 5 miles (8 km) to the south-east of Tinguta station. Parts of the XIII Tank Corps took up defensive positions within the battle formations of the infantry divisions: the 13th Tank Brigade on the eastern edge of the Tingutinskoye forest on the left flank of the 204th Division and providing a link at the junction of the 64th Army and 57th Army about 15.5 miles (25 km) from the corps' main strength; and the 254th Tank Brigade and the 6th Guards Tank Brigade on the left flank of the 126th Division, covering the southern approaches to Abganerovo station.
Both sides lost heavily in the day’s fighting, which left the 14th Panzerdivision with just 24 operational tanks.
On 11 August, as the infantry slowed, the 4th Panzerarmee shifted the axis of its attacks, and the concentrated 94th Division, after overcoming the defences of the 126th Division, crossed the railway in the area to the south of Abganerovo station and occupied the heights to the west of the station. To prevent the flanking of units in the 74-km (46-mile) crossing area, the 6th Guards Tank Brigade was deployed to meet the Germans, but its counterattacks were unsuccessful. For three days, the Soviet tanks tried to recapture the heights, largely because of the fact that the tank units lacked motorised infantry support, whose availability might have changed the situation in favour of the counterattacking side.
Between 11 and 17 August, the 13th Tank Brigade and 254th Tank Brigade were on the defensive, and during these days improved the area’s defence, exploiting the lull to receive and integrate reinforcements, which included four companies of T-34 medium tanks. This arrival boosted he XIII Tank Corps' strength to 76 medium and light tanks.
By 12 August, the Germans had come to the conclusion that the 4th Panzerarmee was on its own incapable of completing its assigned task and of reaching the Volga river in the area of Krasnoarmeysk, and ordered the redeployment of Generalleutnant Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild’s 24th Panzerdivision and Generalleutnant Max Pfeffer’s [e[297th Division from the 6th Army to the 4th Panzerarmee. The two divisions began to move across the fresh ferry point at Potemkin.
The 126th Division and units of the 208th Division defended the line at Height 124.0 and Abganerovo, and fought to destroy the German units which had broken through in the direction of Height 128.1. The 204th Division, boosted by a cadet regiment of the Krasnodar Infantry School, defended the line linking Abganerovo, the Aksai river, Farm No. 2. Height 148.0, Farm No. 3 and the forest 5 miles (8 km) to the east of Farm No. 3. The 38th Motorised Brigade took up defensive positions at Farm No. 2 and Tinguta station.
The Soviet armoured formations and units were no in a parlous state with regard to their vehicles strengths. The 133rd Heavy Tank Regiment had 16 serviceable KV-1 tanks, with another 28 were under repair. The XIII Tank Corps had 24 serviceable T-34, one T-70 and one T-60 tanks, and the 13th Tank ?Brigade had 11 serviceable T-34 tanks, Under repair were 43 T-34, one T-70 and one T-60 tanks, and irrecoverable losses were 53 T-34, three T-70 and one T-60 tanks.
In the sector of the Soviet defence held by the cadet regiment of the Vinnitsa Infantry School, German fire had destroyed up to 100 tanks, 35 other armoured vehicles, 350 wheeled vehicles and up to 600 men.
One of the most significant Soviet failings of this period was the poor quality of reconnaissance, which led to the appearance on 12 August of the Combat Order of the Commander of the Troops of the South-East Front to the Front-Line Forces on shortcomings in the organisation of reconnaissance in formations and units and measures to eliminate them, which noted that 'the troops of the South-East Front and Stalingrad Front are undertaking only poor reconnaissance, and sometimes do not conduct it at all, sometimes not knowing what kind of enemy is in front of [its] regiments and divisions.' It was also noted that 'the commanders of regiments, divisions and higher headquarters, as well as chiefs of reconnaissance units and divisions pay insufficient attention to this most important type of combat support…and poorly manage intelligence, delegating this matter to inexperienced commanders.' In general, the Soviets on several occasions suffered heavy losses of men and matÚriel as a result of their poor organisation of intelligence.
From 05.00 on 13 August, the left-flank units of the 154th Marine Brigade attempted to take Height 124.0 some 8.7 miles (14 km) to the west of Abganerovo station. The 126th Division, the single regiment of the 208th Division and the 6th Guards Tank Brigade fought bitterly with two German infantry regiments and by 14.30 had captured Heights 126.6 and 134.8 some 5.6 miles (9 km) to the west of Abganerovo station. Units of the 77th Division held defensive positions along the line between Farm No. 8 and Farm No. 3, and here at 14.00 repulsed an attack by 30 German tanks, of which five were destroyed.
On 15 August there was a relative calm. The 38th Division took up defensive positions along the line linking Height 148.0 and Farm No. 3, and the 29th Division was preparing a rear line of defence in the area south of Zeta. The rest of the 64th Army remained stable.
At 07.00 on 16 August, the 4th Panzerarmee, after grouping and absorbing reinforcements, resumed the offensive, shifting its axis to the right and attempting to reach the Volga river in the area of Krasnoarmeysk. The XLVIII Panzerkorps struck to the west of the line linking Tsatsa and Krasnoarmeysk line. The Romanian VI Corps and IV Corps advanced along the railway connecting Abganerovo and Tundutovo: the first advanced to the west and the second to the east of the railway. One infantry regiment and a force of 70 tanks broke through the Soviet front held by the 126th Division in the area of Radchenkov’s gully some 2.5 miles (4 km) to the north of Abganerovo, and of Khudomyasov’s gully. By 08.00 the Romanian IV Corps, striking the junction of the 126th Division and the 204th Division, captured the Yurkin state farm. Tanaschinin was ordered to use elements of his XIII Tank Corps to halt the Axis advance: and the 2/6th Guards Tank Brigade moved west to the Yurkin state farm, but passed the flank of the German anti-tank guns and lost 12 of its tanks.
At the same time, the 13th Tank Brigade was moved to Abganerovo station, where it arrived at 17.00 and took part in the fighting from 18 August.
On 18 August, the 29th Division and the 13th Tank Brigade began a counterattack, but the Germans held their positions. By 08.00, Soviet unit had taken the Yurkin state farm and Height 158.0 after an advance of up to 2.5 miles (4 km). By 14.00 the fighting had reached the western edge of Abganerovo station, in the area 1.85 miles (3 km) to the east of the station and Farm No. 2.
Some 1.25 miles (2 km) to the south-east of Abganerovo station, eight T-34 tanks of the 656th Brigade and 95 men of the 254th Tank Brigade were surrounded, and the Germans attacked with 500 infantrymen and 30 tanks, supported from the air by 20 bombers. Four T-34 tanks were hit and caught fire, and their own crews destroyed another four after expending all their ammunition. The Germans lost up to 250 men, five tanks and four anti-tank guns.
During the fighting of 18 August, the Germans beat off all Soviet attacks but were themselves unable to move forward.
In a Soviet report of 19 August, it was noted that in the 4th Panzerarmee's sector the Soviet forces were reinforced in front of the north-eastern wing of the 64th Army and to the north of Abganerovo station. A Soviet attack on the north-eastern sector of the XLVIII Panzerkorps was driven back, and another tank-supported Soviet attack on an area 1.85 miles (3 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo station continued. On the Romanian VI Corps' front there was little artillery activity, and German air reconnaissance in the area to the north of Abganerovo station detected a significant concentration of Soviet tanks, motor vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles, and that movement into the area from the north was evident.
Elements of the 64th Army (the 126th, 208th, 29th and 204th Divisions, and the 13th, 6th Guards and 254th Tank Brigades) halted the offensive of the 94th Division, 371st Division, 29th Division (mot.) and 14th Panzerdivision at Height 126.6 some 2.5 miles (4 km) to the north-west of Abganerovo station, Height 128.1, Khudomyasov’s gully some 4.35 miles (7 km) to the south-east of Abganerovo station and Height 148.0 some 10 miles (16 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo station. The outposts of the 38th Division occupied Tinguta, and the 138th Division was concentrated in the area of the 74-km (46-mile) junction, the Yurkin state farm some 18.5 miles (30 km) to the south-west of Krasnoarmeysk.
On 20 August, the Germans shifted the axis of their attack to the 74-km (46-mile) crossing, but Soviet troops held them back. During the day, the 126th Division and units of the 208th Division repelled German attacks at up to regimental strength along the line linking Tebektenerovo, Height 126.6 and Zadnaya Myshkova. The 29th Division fought stubborn as it defended against German forces of up to infantry division strength, with armoured support, at the Yurkin state farm and Height 158.0. Ar 11.00, a German infantry battalion broke through the Soviet defences in the area of the railway sheds some 0.95 miles (1.5 km) to the north-east of the Yurkin state farm. The 204th Division fought defensive battles with a German infantry regiment, supported by armour, along the line connecting Height 158.0 and Farm No. 2. By the end of the day, the German had forced their way into the Soviet defences in the Koshara area between a position some 2.5 miles (4 km) to the northeast of Height 158.0 and another position some 3.7 miles (6 km) to the south-east of the 74-km (46-mile) junction.
The XLVIII Panzerkorps now advanced to the heights lying to the east of Tundutovo station forward of the group of heights near Krasnoarmeysk, which were held by a substantial Soviet force. To the west of the railway, the IV Corps reached Tinguta station, but the Romanian VI Corps was lagging to the rear of the left flank of the IV Corps which its left flank exposed moved forward too slowly and could not co-operate effectively with the XLVIII Panzerkorps, which was attacked on both flanks and went over to the defensive. The 4th Panzerarmee was checked some 12.5 miles (20 km) short of the Volga river.
Hoth now ordered the nocturnal withdrawal of the XLVIII Panzerkorps as part of a secret concentration behind the army’s left flank in the area to the north-west of Abganerovo station in order to strike to the north into the area to the west of Stalingrad. This meant that Heeresgruppe 'B' could not reach the Volga river to the south of Stalingrad, and thus moved the 'Battle of Stalingrad' into a new stage.
At the same time, Soviet troops launched an offensive from the Chorny Yar area toward the eastern flank of the 4th Panzerarmee in the area of Malye Derbeta. Hoth took this Soviet threat seriously and initially committed one Romanian division to this flank, and then all of the Romanian 6th Corps less General de brigadÔ Corneliu Serghievici’s 20th Division. The task of the Romanian formations, moving through the village of Abganerovo to Malye Derbets, was to create a defence on the flank of the 4th Panzerarmee along the chain of the Sarpa, Tsatsa and Barmantsak lakes.
On 21 August, the 126th Division fought on the line linking Farm No. 1 and Tektenerovo, and the 208th Division fought defensive battles on the line linking Tektenerovo and Height 126.0 some 2.5 miles (4 km) to the west of Abganerovo station. Further Axis attacks at up to divisional strength were stopped on these lines. The 29th, 138th and 38th Divisions defended along the line connecting the Yurkin state farm, Height 158.0 some 3.1 miles (5 km) to the north-east of Abganerovo station, an unnamed height some 1.25 miles (2 km) to the south-east of the 74-km (46-mile) junction and Tinguta.
During the morning, the 57th Army fought fierce defensive battles with German armour which broke through from the direction of the Tsatsa lake to Height 86.0 some 3.1 miles (5 km) to the south-west of Dub gully. In the sector on which the 15th Division was holding the line, by 16.00 a force of as many as 80 German tanks had reached the area 3.7 to 5 miles (6 to 8 km) south-east of Tundutovo station about 8.7 miles (14 km) to the south-west of Krasnoarmeysk). In the battles of 21 August the Soviet forces destroyed up to 60 German tanks.
The CVIII Corps, whose task it was to hold Tsatsa and Barmantsak lakes with two battalions, yielded under Axis pressure and pulled back the Soviet main defence to the south-east of Sarpa lake.
Only on 22 August did the 4th Panzerarmee achieve any real success after the Germans had found a weak spot in the 38th Division’s line and, covering the Abganerovo station and bypassing the 74-km (46-mile) point from the east, captured Tinguta station and continued their advance to Tundutovo. The 38th Division and the cadet regiment of the Vinnitsa Infantry School fought with determination against the German armour and motorised infantry before falling back to a new line of defence to the north of the the Tingut forest.
Axis pressure forced the Soviet formations and units to abandon the outer defensive line to the south of Stalingrad and fall back to the railway. The 154th Marine Brigade, the 20th Fighter Brigade, one battalion of the 13th Tank Brigade, and the 186th and 665th Anti-Tank Artillery Regiments were moved from the 64th Army’s reserve to the sector between the 74-km (46-mile) junction and Tinguta station. The 140th Mortar Regiment, the 1/1104th Cannon Artillery Regiment moved to Tinguta station. The 133rd Tank Brigade was moved to Tundutovo to strengthen the defence of the 422nd Division. The 133rd Tank Brigade and the 20th Fighter Brigade fought against German tanks in the area of Height 118.0, and the German attack was brought to a halt.
On this day, the 57th Army fought fierce defensive battles with German tanks and motorised infantry. The 15th Guards Division fought fiercely on the line of the south-western edges of the line between Dubovy ravine and Golodnaya Balka. Guards units engaged a force of up to a regiment of infantry and 20 tanks, which broke through the Soviet defences to the south-east of Sarpa lake.
On 23 August the Soviets tried without success to recapture Tundutovo station. By the end of the day, the 127th Division had repelled attacks by small groups and still held defensive positions along the line linking Height 97.0, Koshara, Tektenerovo and the railway 3.1 miles (5 km) to the south-west of the 74-km (46-mile) junction. The 138th Division took up defensive positions on the line of the railway l3.1 miles (5 km) to the south-west of the 74-km (46-mile) junction and a point 2.5 miles (4 km) to the north-east of the 74-km (46-mile) junction. The 204th Division, the 29th Division, the cadet regiment of the Vinnitsa Infantry School and units of the 15th Guards Division were partially encircled in the area of the Tingut forest.
The XIII Tank Corps was now tasked with gaining a foothold on the line between the 74-km (46-mile) junction and Tinguta station, but was not reinforced and thus lacked the infantry which it needed for the task. It was here that the lack of its own motorised infantry brigade made itself acutely felt: the brigade had been was withdrawn from the corps at the beginning of the battle and made available to the 64th Army.
During the night of 23/24 August, the 64th Army withdrew units of the 38th and 204th Divisions 0.61 miles (1 km) to the north of the line connecting the 74-km (46-mile) crossing, Koshara some 4.35 miles (7 km) to the west of Tinguta station, Farm No. 2, Height 116.6 and Height 120.2. The other Soviet forces held their current positions. The XIII Tank Corps now possessed only 37 serviceable tanks.
The Soviet general staff report of 08.00 on 25 August reported that the Axis forces did not conduct active offensive operations during 24 August, and that in previous battles, the Axis forces had suffered heavy losses.
At was at this stage that the 'Distant Approaches Defensive Operation' was transformed into the 'Near Approaches Defensive Battle', which had started on 19 August and continued to 18 November after the Axis forces had entered Stalingrad.
In terms of its results, the 'Distant Approaches Defensive Operation' had been marked by the failure of the 64th Army to check the Axis advance on the southern approaches to Stalingrad. However, in order to strengthen Hoth’s 4th Panzerarmee, Paulus’s 6th Army had been compelled to give up part of its strike forces, which had an important impact on the results of the breakthrough on 23 August to the Volga river in the area to the north of Stalingrad.